What Does a CPS Investigation Look Like?


Most families will recieve a call from an unknown telephone number with a CPS investigator on the other end. The investigator will often refuse to disclose the nature of the allegations over the phone (citing "policy") and demand to see the inside of a family home and conduct interviews with the child and any caregivers within 24-48 hours. 


If the investigator isn't able to make contact by phone or instead choses not to introduce themselves by phone, they have the authority to show up at the family home without notice. They are often insistent that the family grant access to the residence without a court order. Once inside the residence, investigators will routinely open cabinets, refrigerators, trash and recycling bins, and assume access to any part of the home they see fit.


They will demand to speak with the child(ren) alone, where they typically ask a series of questions that may be troubling, or even traumatic to the child. Investigators will engage in an interrogation/ questioning of the parent or caregiver disguised as a casual conversation. Anything the parent or caregiver may be used against them a later time.


Investigators will then routinely "ask" the parent or caregiver to sign releases for any providers that they or their child may be enrolled in services, so they may gain access to otherwise protected health information. 



If a parent or caregiver refuses or equivocates in their cooperation, the investigator can (and often do) threaten to remove the child or children through the court process. Parents and caregivers are rarely provided information about their rights in these situations and are left confused and panicked by the stress that the situation has caused.


Investigatons by CPS are harmful to families.


They cause acute stress on the caregiver and the entire family who is the subject of the abuse or neglect investigation. There is little, if anything, more distressing than a State agent coming into a family home and threatening to take children into DHHS custody and place them in foster care.


Despite the severity of the situation, CPS will routinely use a parent or caregiver's "defensiveness" or "lack of cooperation" against them in the court process.



What are my rights during a CPS investigation?


Rights during a CPS investigation are hard to define. Every situation is different and protections that exist in a criminal context, may not apply in a CPS involvement.


Every situation that involves CPS is unique. There is no "one size" approach to how a parent should respond to an allegation of abuse or neglect.


It's important to always consider the stakes (losing children from your home) whenever speaking with CPS. The authority granted to CPS by Maine law is expansive and should not be underestimated. However, through the Maine and United States Constitutions, we do have some rights, including those derived from the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment. 


Parents and caregivers should be allowed to consult with legal counsel. Unfortunately, even that suggestion may be used against the parent in the eyes of the investigator. If you or a loved one are facing a CPS investigation, it is always advisable to contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible. Time is a critical component during an investigation, any delay has the potential to cause irreparable harm.


Maine DHHS policy on CPS investigations:


"The Child protection investigation is the first step in providing Child welfare intervention to families.  It is critical that law, policy, and procedures are followed to ensure Child safety within the context of the family whenever possible and in the Child’s best interest based on the completion of a fact-based, forensic investigation.  When a Child is in circumstances of or at risk of Child Abuse and/or Neglect, the Department must take steps to ensure Child safety, which at times includes the removal of a Child from the home. "